Effect of feeding urea-molasses blocks with incorporated fenbendazole on grazing dairy heifers naturally infected with gastrointestinal nematodes

Between June 1999 and August 2000, the effects of feeding medicated urea-molasses supplement blocks on the growth of dairy heifers in a marginal area of central Kenya were assessed by comparing the live-weight gain of supplemented and unsupplemented heifers grazing the same pasture. Thirty-nine heifers with an average age of 9.6 months were initially treated orally with albendazole (10 mg/kg body weight) and assigned to 3 groups: group I was fed urea-molasses blocks with incorporated fenbendazole (MUMB), group II was fed urea-molasses blocks (UMB) and group III heifers (control) received no block supplementation (NBS). Body weights of the heifers and faecal egg counts (FECs) were measured monthly and larval cultures were made of positive faecal samples of each group. The mean cumulative live-weight responses of the MUMB and UMB groups were significantly greater than the NBS group (P < 0.05). However, at the end of the experimental period, the mean weight gain of the MUMB group did not differ from that of the UMB group (P > 0.05). The FECs were moderate to low in all groups and decreased progressively with increasing age of the animals; FECs for the urea-molasses-supplemented groups remained significantly lower than those of the NBS group throughout the experimental period (P < 0.05). Haemonchus and Trichostrongylus were the predominant nematode genera found in the heifers, but Cooperia, Bunostomum and Oesophagostomum were also present. These results indicate that feeding of urea-molasses blocks substantially reduced production losses attributable to nematode infection of young grazing cattle, and confirms previous observations that well-fed animals are better able to overcome the effects of helminth infections